Every time we visit the grocery store we are confronted with advertising gimmicks. For example, we see convincing words like All Natural, A Good Source of Vitamins, Natural Ingredients, Healthy, Organic, No Antibiotics, No Hormones, Cage-free, etc. These words are attention grabbers for consumers to believe they are getting something wonderful, healthy and nutritious, but are we really getting something good for us? What do all these words really mean?
To find out more regarding how products are labeled with these words, I researched their definitions on the FDA Food and Drug website; following is what I discovered:
- Natural – means the product contains no synthetic or artificial ingredients.
- Healthy – means the product has limited fat, cholesterol, saturated fat and sodium and must contain minimum vitamin and mineral requirements or other good nutrients. Although healthy sounds good, the product can still contain fat, sodium, calories and if we eat other HEALTHY products in any given day, we may be getting too much FAT and calories.
- Cage-free – hens are allowed to roam freely but conditions can still be similar to caged hens. For example:
- Hens are mainly purchased from hatcheries where males are killed immediately after hatching.
- Beaks are burned off.
- Hens are not allowed to live long lives; they are slaughtered at 2 years old or younger. En route to the slaughterhouse, hens are not provided food or water even when the facility is a substantial distance away.
- Hormones – are genetically-engineered growth medication that makes animals grow faster, bigger and produce more milk in many cases. It is injected into animals like cows or added to their feed. Cows in the 1950’s produced 5,000 pounds of milk and today they produce over 18,000 pounds a year. Hormones called rBGH (recombinant bovine growth hormone) have been linked to mastitis a painful udder infection, deformed calves, hoof diseases, open sores and deadly internal bleeding. Synthetic hormones used are Zeranol, Trenbolone, and Melengestrol. Zeranol and Trenbolone are given by injection and Melengestrol is given to animals through their feed. All these hormones are thought to be linked to cancer per European studies. The United States and Canada still use hormones, however Europe does not allow hormone usage nor does it allow for the import of beef from other countries which use it. Other research studies state that hormones cause young girls to mature earlier which increases breast and ovarian cancer risks.
- Antibiotics – are medications used to treat udder infections caused in cows. Overuse of antibiotics can cause cows to become nonresistant to bacteria.
- Organic – means food which is grown or produced to certain guidelines of the USDA. Organic does not mean that food is better or contains more nutrients, as an example, ice cream can be organic and still contain high levels of FAT.
The FDA claims that all the various chemicals used to raise livestock or to grow crops are okay for us but if we are eating products which contain these hormones and antibiotics, there has to be some long-term damage. If these products are causing problems in cows and cause them to grow bigger faster, maybe these hormones are causing our obesity issues and other health problems. Polluting our bodies with synthetic chemicals does not make sense to me.
What does make sense to me is eating organically. The FDA has strict guidelines for organic labeling for produce that is raised or grown organically, i.e. no chemical fertilizers, no insecticides, no herbicides, no growth hormones and no antibiotics. Farmers generating revenue greater than $5,000 are subject to a certification process. Products that have been certified will display the green and white, USDA/Organic seal. This seal guarantees that 95 % of the production cycle contains no chemicals. To become a chemical free society, we must buy only organic. Once there is a demand for organic, chemically produced products will decline. Let’s get healthy together, go ORGANIC. Thank you, Kathryn Alexander.